Tom Demakes of Old Neighborhood help unload a truck full of boxes of Christmas meals of families of children who go to the Lynn YMCA.

Feeding a need in Lynn

LYNN -- The way Tom Demakes of Old Neighborhood Foods sees it, if you have the  means to help people in need and choose not to, "shame on you."

Demakes, the third-generation owner of the Waterhill Street business, is a noted philanthropist. And part of that generosity manifests itself at Christmastime, when his company has, for several years, donated food to needy families in Lynn associated with institutions such as the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club. Thursday, Old Neighborhood gave out 75 meal boxes to the Lynn Y to be distributed to local families. 

"This is something we have done from time to time," said Demakes. "It's something, at least. There's never enough to go around for everyone, but it's something we do.

"When we were struggling to build this company, we did what we could," he said. "As we grew, and became more successful, we did more. Now, we can do even more. And if you're able to do it, and don't, shame on you."

Demakes, who lives in Swampscott, grew up on Franklin Street in Lynn and identifies heavily with the city.

"I may sleep in Swampscott," he said, "but I'm a Lynner through and through."

Demakes and Old Neighborhood are involved in the construction of a new YMCA building next to the old one on Neptune Boulevard. He and the firm are also helping to refurbish the Lynn Boys and Girls Club, where he was a member as a boy, and helped in the renovation of the Blood Building on Wheeler Street that is now KIPP Academy's high school.

"I went to the Boys Club in the 1950s as a kid, and it was old then," he said. "And it looked about the same way until this rehab started."

In conjunction with his donation to the Y, Demakes and Old Neighborhood also made similar donations to the Boys and Girls Club and to KIPP. The food boxes include sliced ham, sliced turkey, pork and turkey sausages, and other articles of food that should help a family of four eat for about a month, he said.

There's a lot of need out there," he said.

“We have been blown away by the generosity shown to the Lynn Y this holiday season,” said Amy Croce, Director of Branch Operations. 

“We are so thankful to the Demakes family and to everyone who was able to donate to our holiday charitable drives,” said Kathleen Walsh, President and CEO of the YMCA Metro North.  “We are proud to partner with so many local organizations and companies like Old Neighborhood Foods, and we wouldn’t be able to reach nearly as many local people and families without their generosity.”

Each year, the YMCA Metro North distributes more than $1,000,000 in scholarships to individuals and families to attend its Y Academies, summer camps, and other evidence-based programs such as LiveSTRONG at the Y, Enhance Fitness for seniors, cardiac rehab maintenance, and more.

Steve Krause can be reached at

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